Step 1: Leads

First of all, there are two types of leads. Inbound and outbound. “Inbound” leads are ones that have reached out to you. “Outbound” leads are ones you are soliciting. This is an important distinction because 1) the messaging will be different 2) your metrics will vary.

Most companies tend to focus on inbound leads - but in my experience, if you are an early stage startup looking to grow rapidly and no one has ever heard of you, then outbound leads are the way to go. You still will want to have an inbound strategy but in the onset it can require a significant investment (around $10,000) with minimal results (at least initially).

Working with outbound leads can be a great starting point, not only for generating brand awareness and sales, but also to perfect product fit while understanding who your core audience is. This will make your future targeting and messaging much more effective.

A leads list looks something like this.

Inbound Leads

There are a ton of resources on inbound lead generation — so I'm going to skim over this. But to put it simply:

The goal is to create as many possible email collection points for however and whenever a lead finds you.

This generally means building a landing page with an email collection form and then directing traffic to this page using one of the following ways (but not limited to):

  1. Online Ads
  2. Social Media
  3. Coupons
  4. Giveaways
  5. Contests

There are definitely many clever ways to do this, including setting up dummy sites and creating online quizzes. If you want some ideas you can go here.

If you are already running campaigns with your inbound lists but want to improve your messaging, then skip to here.

Outbound Leads

Most email marketers will tell you that outbound lists (purchased lists) are garbage, but one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.

In my opinion, outbound leads are how you scale a business quickly and as long as you create strong messaging, it can yield some nice results at a fraction of the price of inbound leads.

Did you know companies like Experian (yup, the credit bureau!), Hoovers and Dun & Bradstreet all sell email leads lists?

Now, the first step is to figure out:

Where do your customers sleep, live and breathe either physically, digitally or both and determine how to best get their email addresses.

Here’s a few ways to do this.

  1. Build a list. Do this by looking for associations, conventions or message boards where your customer may have 'opted in' their business email and start scraping their info yourself (free) or you can buy the list direct. You could also outsource the work. I’ve found contractors on UpWork for $4/hr. It tends to yield around $0.50 - $1 per email whereas everything stateside has been around $2. This is by far the cleanest and most effective way to gather outbound leads outside of buying the list directly.
  2. Buy a list. Do you sell hair products? Then maybe you should buy a list of salon owners’ emails. Do you sell a Saas education platform? Then buy a list of high schools. You can generally get tens of thousands of emails for a few hundred bucks. Of course, these lists are really dirty, which is why email marketers tend not to like them. But with some clever hacks, they can be very resourceful. Just be sure to purchase from a company that is "opt-in CAN-SPAMM compliant."

TIP #1: Need help finding an email address? Click here


What works for you? Do the Math.

In the end, both inbound and outbound leads can prove to be very effective. To figure out which is best for you, do the math.

Note: There are many factors that affect these formulas and are covered in the rest of the guide.

If you have a high dollar product or service that requires a long sales cycle, then the following might make sense, with a qualified lead equaling someone who has scheduled a meeting or a demo.

Total Cost of Leads List / Number of Qualified Leads = Cost Per Qualified Lead

Otherwise, this is the most useful metric and one that investors often ask for. 

Total Cost of Leads List / Number of Customers Acquired = Customer Acquisition Cost

Remember, list growing is a constant. You will never have enough leads. The trick is to think outside the box to discover new ways of building them. But for now, you have a starting point. You've got your list ready to go. So let's move on to messaging, the key to an effective campaign.